Yet there is something so amiable in the prejudices of a young mind, that one is sorry to see them give way to the reception of more general opinions. (Jane Austen)
Since I first read Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, that line has resonated in my mind. In this particular novel, the dichotomy between “sense” and “sensibility” is most clearly symbolized by the psychological contrast between the novel’s two main characters. “Sense” is portrayed as reason, restraint, social responsibility, and a clear-headed concern for the welfare of others; while “sensibility” is depicted in emotion, spontaneity, impulsiveness, and rapturous devotion.
But it is Austen’s brilliant use of satire that she is most renowned for, which has an impressionable way of drawing attention to constructive social criticism. Beyond mere sense and sensibility, Austen was also alluding to the contrasting cultural movements of her time, Classicism and Romanticism. In an unexpected and beautiful conclusion, she endorses the balance between reason and passion, and not the dismissal of one or the other. It is this equilibrium that I seek to possess.
Some would say that I am just getting older and wiser, but if I am honest, I am sorry to see my former spunk give way to the reception of more general opinions. And if not opinion, then certainly there is a lack of spiritedness in the face of opposition. Being a Christian in today’s society is hard. Discerning the balance between boldness and meekness is hard. Knowing when to speak up and when to remain silent is hard.
There is a certain news story floating around the internet and television channels that has me entirely dumbfounded by everyone’s apparent acceptance. I am so ardently against every claim of support that I do not even know where to begin. And perhaps there are others as flabbergasted as myself, because no one seems to be speaking up in opposition. I hope we are speechless because we are trying to be pragmatic, not because we are afraid.
I have been psychoanalyzing myself to try to discover why I have remained silent on this issue, along with many other “hot topic” issues. And while my results are inconclusive, I fear that one explanation is that I am just tired. I am tired of seeing the world so differently, I am tired of swimming upstream, and I am tired of “respecting other people’s opinions” when they could care less about respecting mine. I feel caught between sense and sensibility.
So that brings me to ask, “What kind of Christian does America need?”
Well I know that “for God so loved the world” (John 3:16), and that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19). I take heart to Jesus’ words when he prayed, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world… As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:15-18). And when the Apostle Paul clarified, “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world” (1 Cor. 5:9-10).
Basically, as Christians we are called to be in the world but not of the world. We are to balance reason with passion. But what does that mean? Let us consider, then, Paul’s words in the following section:
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Cor. 9:19-23)
So what kind of Christian does America need? Put simply, one that enables them to hear the gospel.
I cannot speak for everyone, only myself, but I do not respond well to harsh condemnation. If I am in error, it is the calm gentle words from a friend or loved one that I am most susceptible to receiving. Even further than that, I would say that I usually do not want your opinion unless I ask for it, until I am ready to hear it.
In that case, I want to love like Jesus and treat others how I would like to be treated. I want to share my convictions, in humility, when the opportunity presents itself. I want to love with reason, responsibility, and concern for others. But I also want to love with feeling, sincerity, and devotion. I want to have sense and sensibility. And I want to run with endurance.
(I recommend watching the 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility with Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman.)